Thursday, September 8, 2011

Got milk?

On day 27 of Emma's life I have started supplementing her feeds with a combination of donated breast milk from a good friend (for which I have enormous gratitude!) and formula.  I realized that I had no more milk! I put her on the breast, and she was pulling off repeatedly and crying, and when I squeezed there was NOTHING coming!  I was shocked.  I tried pumping for the next few days, and got a grand total of 5 ml (1/6 of an ounce) out of the morning pumping session, and NOTHING out of any of the other pumping sessions during the day.  The milk had completely dried up.  When I saw that, and I first supplemented her, and she took 120 ml (4 oz) in one feed, I realized that I had starved the poor baby for the prior couple of days, as the process must have been gradual.  I did not know why she was crying and not wanting to latch. Now, after supplementing, she slept like a normal baby, and did not want to continuously be held and sucking on the breast every five minutes.  She actually has 3-4 hours where she is content, awake and alert, looking around, chatting with us, and is a completely different person.

I feel like such an asshole, for not recognizing that she was hungry all this time.  I beat myself up tremendously for it, but in the end I did watch her much more carefully after seeing that she did not gain the expected weight.  My doctor did not seem alarmed and told me to come back in 3 weeks, I am glad that I continued to weigh her and to worry.  The supplimenting system that I use is actually a feeding tube (the kind that the hospital uses for nasogastric feeding of infants) which I sneak into her mouth while she is latched onto the breast, and put one end of it in the breastmilk or formula, and let her suck it up like if she were breastfeeding.  I saw that in a book, and thought it was cool.  She does take a bottle, but I wanted to have the closeness and the association of the breast with the food.

I did not lose hope though, I presumed that the milk dried up because of the hypovolemic shock that left my pituitary gland without much blood supply, and hence decreased the prolactin.  I was not expecting that it would take a week for the effect to show, but it did.  Hoping that maybe it is temporary, I keep on pumping, feeding, and taking domperidone (motilium) 80 mg /day, fenugreek capsules (12 per day) and blessed thistle capsules (9 per day).

This has been very stressful for me, not being able to feed my daughter, losing that bond, worrying about the effect of the formula as she seems to spit it up and get constipated on it, trying to find more donor milk (the Vancouver milk bank told me that they don't have any milk, and to try again in 2 weeks!), and feeling like I have failed Emma in a very basic way.  I have tried to keep in mind that it is all about her though, and that she is lucky to have a live mother, the breastmilk vs. formula problem does not even compare to the immense luck that I have had to survive.  (I found out today that I needed 10 transfusions in total, not 8 like I had thought, that makes me think of how bad the situation really was).  She is lucky, and I am lucky.  And c'mon, I mustn't forget that I am lucky to have her at all.

But sick with a mastitis of the left breast (from too much pumping) and worried about my daughter, and about my husband who is working way too hard, and about my bird who got a concussion that made him scary ill, and recovering after my blood loss (I am still very weak and tired), all of these burdens broke the optimistic camel's back for the past day or so, and I have been down.  Today however, I went for a walk with Emma in my arms, and she latched onto my breast for comfort.  We were sitting on a park bench, and the sunset was warm and beautiful, and I felt peaceful with her, I felt her precious body laying on my belly and realized how good everything is, how magical, how peaceful.  Then I went home, and asked MrH to take me on a motorcycle ride, since my mom is still here and could look after Emma.  We rode past wheat fields, past the river, and saw the moon starting to rise above the horizon, smelled the forest, and I felt really peaceful, really close to my husband, and felt like I was ok, like maybe I haven't failed, maybe it was just life, the way it is, imperfect, full of obstacles, but beautiful nevertheless.

Then I went home and pumped...and got one ounce of milk!  That was enormous for me, especially at night.  The mastitis suddenly improved, my breast started to drain, I pumped again another ounce three hours later, and felt on top of the world.  Maybe my milk is coming back!  Will watch and see.  The important thing is that I have realized that there is much more to the bond I have with Emma than just the breastfeeding, and that I am sure we can be happy and peaceful no matter how the feeding goes.  I am, however, certain of one thing:  I will never let her be hungry again.  I am going to top her off after every single feed, just to make sure.  Even if my milk comes back.  I cannot bear to think that she was hungry, and it will never happen again.


  1. Sounds like your milk is trying to make a comeback! I understand your need to supplement right now, but hopefully the day will soon come when Emma decides she's full after nursing without using the supplementing system.

    I had to supplement my preemie with formula due to low supply. He was a terribly impatient nurser and wasn't willing to stick it out with breastfeeding first then getting a bottle. I wish I had tried the SNS supplement system it sounds like you are using. As time wore on, he refused to nurse at all and my supply really tanked. No matter which formula I tried, nothing agreed with the poor little guy either. Chronic constipation was not fun to deal with...

    Sounds like Emma is a much more patient nurser than my guy, so hopefully as your supply goes back up she will decrease the amount of formula she needs. Just another crazy hurdle for you to have to overcome in your (very) long list of them. Good luck!

  2. Fingers crossed your milk makes a comeback! Hang in there

  3. Aww, you have not failed Emma! You are obviously a wonderful mommy already, who is doing everything you can for your little girl. I'm so glad your milk seems to be coming back, I hope it continues!